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Introduction

Origins

The City

Collegeville (1887, 1895)
College Delta (1898, 1899)
Oakwood (1899)
Cedar Banks (1900)
College Grove (1903)
Fairview (1904, 1905)
College Heights (1904)

Charter of 1907

Avondale (1913)
Bungalow Knolls (1916)
Chesterfield Hills (1916)
Ardson (1919)
Ridgeley Park (1921)
Strathmore (1925)
Glen Cairn (1926)

The Campus

Chronology

1855–1870
1871–1885
1886–1900
1901–1915
1916–1927

 

Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures

Sources

The College Hospital (1894–1924)

For the first four decades or so of its existence, the Michigan Agricultural College had no hospital or medical facilities to speak of. This was an untenable situation, because contagious diseases were a constant threat. For example, a diphtheria epidemic in 1862 left five dead and “sent many home.” According to Beal, “in 1875–1895 it was not very unusual for a student or two to come down with measles or mumps and be followed by large numbers until the disease had literally gone through the College student body of one hundred fifty to three hundred.” He recalled “several distressing instances of this character.”[Kuhn, p. 71; Beal, p. 283]

These local epidemics were noticed by the general public, and they were giving the College a poor reputation. The Board of Agriculture and the Legislature took notice, and even in an era of extremely stingy finances the bad press was a powerful lever: as Kuhn noted, “Building grants in President Clute's four years [1889–1893] were confined to a botany laboratory to replace one that had burned in 1890, a greenhouse to succeed one that had rotted away, and a small hospital because epidemics were creating a scandal.” Such was the scandal that even though the Board requested $2,500 for the hospital, the 1893 Legislature allocated $3,500.[Kuhn, p. 176; Minutes, 15 Dec 1892, p. 629; 34th AR (1895), p. 21]


The College Hospital, circa 1910. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 285.

The Hospital was constructed in 1894 at the northern edge of campus near Grand River Avenue, straddling the township line marked by Abbot Road (which at that time ended at Grand River). It had seven rooms and two bath rooms.[Minutes, 7 Mar 1894, p. 58. 40th AR (1901), p. 22]

The Board resolved to “secure the services of some reputable physician,” and established “a tax of ten cents a week from every resident on the college premises” to cover costs of the doctor, medicines, etc. However these plans were soon rescinded, for reasons that are not entirely clear (but were likely fiscal), and for its first several years the hospital was operated on an ad-hoc basis, with a rotating series of doctors called in when needed (among them C. M. Dickson) and often unqualified employees of the College acting as impromptu attendants. The Board even authorized the President to rent out the building “under certain conditions” (that the Board left unspecified), which to this author seems questionable if not downright unsanitary.[Minutes, 27 Jan 1893, p. 9-10; 16 May 1893, p. 25; 5 Sep 1893, p. 41; 17 Oct 1893, p. 44]

President J. L. Snyder later summed up those years with this understatement: “At no time was the service altogether satisfactory.”[40th AR (1901), p. 22]

Finally, on September 1, 1900 the College appointed a trained nurse, Rowena Ketchum, to be in charge of the Hospital. She was paid a salary of $300 per year—about half of what an Instructor might earn—but also was permitted “to collect five dollars per week from such students as were confined in the hospital.” The change was immediate:

“The hospital service the past year [1900–1901] has been very satisfactory. Students seemed to appreciate the service of Miss Ketchum and were almost always ready and willing to go to the hospital when ill. The building has been fitted up with neat, small iron bedsteads, and is in every way very neat and comfortable. Serious illness is often avoided by prompt removal to the hospital and such special care as only a trained nurse can give.”[46th AR (1907), p. 9; 40th AR (1901), pp. 13,22]

A slight improvement to the cause of good health on campus came in the form of four small isolation cottages built just east of the Bacteriology Lab in 1909.


Four Detention Hospitals, circa 1910. At right is a horticultural barn. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 286.

Nurse Ketchum retired around 1919, a year which was not very promising for the health division. No full-time nurse was on staff, and the main hospital building was converted to house the local Y.M.C.A. which had lost its previous home in the Williams Hall fire. The little isolation cottages became the “official college hospital.” With hindsight this seems like pure folly, as the winter of 1920 saw a major outbreak of the influenza pandemic that had been raging worldwide since 1918. The old hospital building was rushed back into service, with overflow patients forced into the music building (formerly Faculty Row № 9) for men, and Howard Terrace for women. To make matters worse, “a great many students have the measles and where to put these cases is causing some worry.”[MAC Record, 24(20), 28 Feb 1919, p. 3; 25(17), 30 Jan 1920, p. 5; 25(22), 5 Mar 1920, p. 3]

The campus epidemic resulted in at least two deaths. Somehow the College weathered the storm.

By 1924, the original hospital building was obsolete—not to mention standing in the path of the planned Abbot Entrance boulevard—so it was moved to 901 Abbot Road, on the northwest corner at Centerlawn Avenue, where today stands a professional office building. The isolation cottages were also removed, to make room for the new Horticulture Building. Abbot Hall temporarily became the hospital while Faculty Row № 1 was overhauled to become the new hospital. It opened to the public on February 17, 1925 and served in that capacity until the completion of Olin Health Center in 1939.[The Record, 51(2), Apr 1946, p. 9. MAC Record, 29(30), 19 May 1924, p. 11; 30(19), 16 Feb 1925, p. 297]